Artist fined over designs of “Czech-Romany” flags|
The authorities in Prague 7 have fined an artist over a series of works
combining the Czech national flag with that of the Romany people. He says
the flags, which appeared on an embankment in the city last summer, were
meant to foster debate on tensions between the two communities. However,
the local town hall accuses him of defaming a Czech national symbol.
Last July, Slovak artist Tomáš Rafa put up seven variations on the Czech
national flag at Prague’s Artwall Gallery, an open-air exhibition space
at a busy embankment. The designs combined the Czech flag with the banner
of the Romany people; some featured the Romany spoked wheel, while in
others, the Czech flag’s white stripe was replaced by green.
The exhibition entitled “Tender for a Czech-Romany Flag” was the
author’s contribution to the debate on the strained co-existence of
Czechs and Romanies at a time when ethnic tensions were high in several
parts of the country.
The outdoor show provoked some strong reactions. It also earned Tomáš
Rafa a criminal complaint by a former member of the far-right Workers’
Party of Social Justice who argued he had defamed the national flag; that
is an offence under Czech law which carries a maximum penalty of 10,000
The police eventually handed the case over to the local officials in
Prague 7 where the Artwall Gallery is based. They decided the law had been
breached, and fined the author. The amount of the fine has not been
disclosed but the municipality spokesman Martin Vokuš said it was the
minimum allowed by law. Mr Vokuš also says the officials had little
“We received the case from the police last September. The police also
gave us an expert opinion which said that three of the flags on display did
constitute a breach of the law governing the usage of the national symbols
of the Czech Republic. Our officials can’t take into consideration
whether this was a piece of art, or any other aspects such as the
author’s intention. Our role was to say whether it broke the law or
Tomáš Rafa, meanwhile, says he was surprised when his work became the
subject of a police investigation. He thinks he breached no law by
designing the flags, and believes his project proved useful.
“In light of recent developments, both in the Czech Republic and
Slovakia, I can see that the project uncovered something that has been
muted in society. There is a certain tension caused by a lack of dialogue.
And I think that projects like the Czech-Romany flag open the way for
Rafa has appealed against the fine, which means the local authorities in
Prague 7 will have to review the case. For their part, Romany activists
point out that sports fans have never been punished for modifying the Czech
flag with the names of their home towns.